This is a breaking story and will be updated throughout the day.
Voting rights groups and individuals suing Florida over its congressional maps asked a Tallahassee court to block new Northeast Florida congressional districts that would make it harder for Jacksonville’s Black voters to elect their preferred candidates.
The motion for a temporary injunction, filed Tuesday, noted that Gov. Ron DeSantis’ own deputy chief of staff said that the Florida Supreme Court was wrong in its decision last decade that mandated a Jacksonville to Gadsden County district.
DeSantis has said he believes the district is racially gerrymandered and violates the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection clause. His own map, which he signed into law, would replace the district with white-majority Republican districts throughout North Florida.
DeSantis vetoed an earlier map that would’ve created a Jacksonville-only district that the Legislature had said it believed would still protect Black voters’ ability to elect their preferred candidates.
The suit relies on Florida’s Fair Districts standards, which voters approved last decade. Those standards codified parts of the Voting Rights Act’s Section 2 and Section 5 provisions into state law, including a strict requirement that voters from minority groups could not have their voting power diminished.
The lawsuit alleges the new maps diminish Black voting power, intentionally favor the Republican Party, are not compact and don’t follow county, city or geographic boundaries.
While the overall lawsuit focuses on many parts of the map, the request for an injunction is limited to the former Congressional District 5 that spanned Jacksonville to Gadsden County.
“Infringement of voting rights safeguarded by the constitution—even for just one election—causes irreparable injury,” the lawsuit’s lawyers wrote in a memorandum.
The suit, filed by Democratic lawyer Marc Elias’ law firm on behalf of Black Voters Matter, Equal Ground Education Fund, League of Women Voters of Florida, Florida Rising Together and individual voters, was filed in the 2nd Judicial Circuit in Tallahassee.
Elias in a Twitter Spaces conversation last week said that his team of lawyers would prioritize getting a court order in place before this fall’s primaries and general elections.
The state argued in a separate federal lawsuit that new maps could be put in place as late as June 13. Individual county supervisors said the maps needed to be in place earlier.
Courts have not ruled that compliance would violate the U.S. Constitution, but as the U.S. Supreme Court has taken a more conservative turn, DeSantis and his staff have pointed to other decisions as evidence that the courts might strike down the non-diminishment requirement.
In the new map, Donald Trump would’ve won 20 of the state’s 28 congressional districts in 2020. In 2018, DeSantis would’ve won 18 of the seats. In 2016, Trump would’ve won 17 seats.
Both in the 1990s and the 2010s, new court-ordered maps did not take effect until after two election cycles, in 1996 and 2016 respectively.